The smart fabric trend continues:
The GER Mood Sweater by San Francisco based designer Kristin Neidlinger uses GSR (Galvanic Skin Response) technology to take readings, then interprets those readings as shifting light colors projected by LEDs into the sweater’s fabric. The colors let those around you know how you are feeling, something Neidlinger terms extimacy: externalized intimacy. This explains the GER in GER Mood Sweater – Galvanic Extimacy Responder Mood Sweater:
So what does Galvanic mean anyway?
You’re asking the right person.
Remember in eighth grade biology, when we learned about how the brain uses electricity to send signals? And the heart uses electricity to contract and pump blood? Well, there’s also electricity in your skin. This is how touch screen devices work: small sensors beneath the screen or pad sense the very low-level electricity coming off your finger tips, then convert this to movement
across the screen. This is also why touch devices don’t work when wearing
regular gloves: the fabric acts as an insulator, and doesn’t allow the electricity from your fingers to transmit to the sensors in the device. Those special touchscreen gloves have
electricity conducting threads woven into the fabric or knitting which lets the electricity in your skin travel from your fingertips, through the thread, and into the touch pad.
So, galvanic means “relating to or producing a direct current of electricity” (courtesy of Merriam-webster.com).
The same principle is used during an EKG/ECG and EMG. Sensors, probably very similar if not identical to those attached to the model’s hands, are attached to the body in strategic positions—for example each wrist and an ankle—and the electrical current produced by the heart (hence the c/k for cardio/kardio) or muscle (m for myo; muscular) is then measured through a small device and interpreted via a computer or printout. The result is the electrocardiogram or electromyogram.
The thing is, it can actually be slightly tricky to get a good reading from EKGs and EMGs. Since the devices are testing a very low-level of electricity, they are susceptible to interference from other electrical things. For example, electrical sockets in the walls can interfere with readings. So can mobile phones, which is why doctor’s offices often requires them to be turned off.
This brings up a thought:
Let’s say that sometime in the near future you have on your fabulous GER Mood Sweater at a super posh club and you are texting on your very hi-tech touch screen device. Could the electrical signals between your finger and the touch screen be transmitted by the skin to the electrical sensors placed on the palms of your hands and sent to the sweater LED’s, causing interference and giving off a false red “angry” mood? Inadvertently scaring off all the other people in the club?
I think that, in addition to tech support, Neidlinger may need to consider offering a relationship help line. Either that, or a very well written disclaimer.
More seriously, using smart fabrics and other wearable tech to take readings on the body then interpret them for a specific application—whether for extimacy or for a medical emergency—seems to be a growing technology. In this article by Manufacturing.net, not only does the author discuss some of these developments but he also mentions some surveys which measure how comfortable, or rather uncomfortable, people would be using wearable technology for job purposes.
What does this mean to knitters? Well, aside from the fact that future Christmas sweaters may have more than a light-up nose on Rudolph the Reindeer, honestly, I think it means the same thing to us as to the designers and engineers working to make these products for mass consumption: The ability to integrate electronic elements into wearable devices, whether they are smart sweaters or Google’s Glass, is an amazing development. Imagine jackets which charge batteries from the electricity given off the body, which later light up to provide illumination for rescue workers. Or sweaters that can be programmed to light up with your favorite quotes: the ultimate repurposable fashion item. Even those size changing clothes in Back to the Future: if threads can sense where the skin is by electrical current, then contract in size to shrink the distance between cloth and the skin, we may finally achieve a true “one size fits all”.
Happy Knitting Everyone!